It’s undeniable, though, that journalists often use sartorial choices as a way of imparting information about women they’re writing about. And that’s a device to which male subjects probably don’t have to worry about as much, a point on which I’d welcome some statistical evidence. Media organizations covering Texas state Sen. Wendy Davis’ filibuster last month zeroed in on her pink sneakers — admittedly a killer detail, but as Name It Change It’s Allison Adams has noted, different from the treatment Rand Paul got when he employed a similar tactic in the U.S. Senate.
— Wired’s profile of Google engineer leads with anecdotes about her wardrobe by Andrew Beaujon
In basic news writing lessons, we are taught to describe the appearance of our subjects. There are multiple reasons for this method. Concrete details about a person can be helpful and in the terms of features, those details help make people have more personality. And I think clothes are interesting. They can reveal a lot about a person. I don’t mind reading about what someone is wearing but it’s not news. A killer pair of pink tennis shoes is fun. Is it lead worthy, in that sort of story? No.
Why is it that we hear so much about Michelle Obama’s dresses and Hillary Clinton’s pant suits? I’ve never read a story about the color of Obama’s tie or G. W. Bush’s receding hair line? It’s obvious that women and men are covered and described differently in the news. In a profession that’s supposed to be striving for objectivity, that’s not cool.
I took a look at the difference in the photojournalism in two similar news situations. There are at least two shoe pictures and much more full body shots in the Wendy Davis story than the Rand Paul ones.